Technology, integration of it and fulfilling ones needs are often quite different. That is the case with the GoPro Hero +3 Black that I had purchased a month ago.
I read all of the reports and it seemed that the GoPro Black was the top pick by everyone, including motorcycle reviewers. However, I think that the criteria used for evaluation may have being the problem and it is what led me down an expensive road with and expensive learning curve. Sure the GoPro is an awesome camera and great for hiking, surfing and the such where there is no power source. But on a motorcycle we have a power source that should utilized.
I was able to return all of the GoPro accessories and camera at Henry’s Photo but they charged a 20% re-stocking fee (over $ 100.00 lesson). I guess you could say that I sure got learned…
My Criteria for a Motorcycle
Let me list the criteria that is important to me and most likely to many other motorcyclist.
- The camera must be powered like a GPS and be in a constant ready position (turned on) to capture those special moments during a ride. A 2-3 hour battery life just does not cut the mustard! Stopping to change batteries is not a solution either. I ride hours at a time.
- The equipment must be waterproof from the rain.
- The camera must positioned outward from the motorcycle to capture the road (usually not reachable while riding) but be controlled by a remote close to the driver’s hand (fingers) such as on the handlebar somewhere reachable.
- The camera should be able to have a SD card large enough to capture video and pictures for the complete ride
- The picture and video quality should be acceptable for YouTube’s and to today’s accepted HD standards.
- The camera should be from a known manufacturer and supported by a reachable support staff
The GoPro that Didn’t Go
The camera does not meet criteria 1 and 2 and also barely met criteria 2 and 3.
I mounted the GoPro on the right side using a ram mount attached to my mirror arm and I mounted the GoPro WIFI controller on the opposite mirror arm so I could control the camera with my left index finger. I connected a power USD mini plug and wired it from the USB accessory plug to the GoPro.
- The GoPro would only accept the USB Mini Plug using the additional battery add-on and the open back so the USB plug could be attached. Therefore, this set-up would not work in the rain. If I were to make a hole in the plastic camera case and seal it, I would not be able to remove the GoPro from the case.
- Ok, so lets assume we use battery for rainy days and we most likely do not want pictures in the rain anyhow. The next issue is that the camera goes into a charging mode and when it is in a charging mode it will not accept WiFi commands and you cannot take pictures. So all my ingenious wiring was for not…
- The WiFi remote only maintains a charge for a few hours and could not be hooked up with a permanent connection.
The Garmin Solution – VIRB Elite
- I use a Garmin 390L motorcycle GPS that is wired into the bike for permanent power.
- The VIRB Elite can be controlled by the Garmin that is just left of my left hand (perfect). I got a great deal on the VIRB at GPS City. I got the All black edition to keep with the all black theme of my CTX700N. Note that you must update to the latest software when you purchase the VIRB in order to allow it to operate while charging.
- I ordered a Mini USB to Battery Harness (I will posi-tap to accessories) that is water-proof and comes with a Garmin PPC-024 adapter specific for Garmin devices. You can order one at Motorcycle Innovations.
- For extra protection on the USB mini plug, I plan to use a little Permatex Dielectric Grease every once and a while to totally prevent rust.
- The Garmin communicates with the VIRB using a technology called “ant”. The ant communication will not conflict or interfere with the blue tooth and therefore will continue providing me with street by street instructions on a route through Bluetooth to my Scala G9x in my helmet while allowing me to control the camera.
- The VIRB is naturally waterproof without a casing to IPX7 which I am told is 100% rainproof. They told me not to submerge it too deep in water. I tried to explain to them that if the camera is submerged in water so will my GPS, Bike, Luggage and of course, me! So I am not too concerned about submerging.
- So what I have now is a camera that takes acceptable photographs and video that will be on my motorcycle and ready to go throughout my ride with no limitations, rain or shine. Thank you Garmin for yet another Great Product!
I will be installing the VIRB this weekend and will add photos.